In the real estate sector it is often the case that building control solutions are not used due to the significant initial cost associated with the technology, as well as uncertainty surrounding the future operation and maintenance of buildings. But this negative view often stems from past bad experiences with the traditional building and lighting control solution providers. Exploring the rapidly evolving building control industry, Mike Welch, managing director of Control Network Solutions outlines how choosing the right technologies can lead to lower-cost smart solutions delivering beneficial business energy savings, significant real-time flexibility and importantly, access to live building data.

Controls are in fact one of the least expensive ways to substantially reduce energy bills. Unfortunately, most Corporate Real Estate (CRE) managers think of controls as expensive Building Management Systems, Building Automation Systems, Building Automated Controls or Building Energy Management Systems.

Unfortunately, this preconception is usually based upon someone’s previous bad experience, or even just passed on by others who had this experience when using traditional control solution brands and providers

All too often, the dreaded words ‘stranded investment’ are heard by real estate clients. This is when for example, a particular technology or solution is acquired to address a set of issues, but in the time it takes to implement the solution, a new issue has arisen which will not be effectively addressed by the investment -leaving it ‘stranded’.

It would be wrong to dismiss these experiences as just ‘one-offs’ or as a result of poor choices, advice or suppliers. Their experience was real and probably painful, stressful or most likely both!

However, the building controls industry - once quite slow in its evolution - is now much faster at creating completely new solution innovators and delivery channels that can deliver immensely beneficial business results.

An example of this is the building and lighting controls at the new Standard Bank office in the Rosebank area of Johannesburg. Awarded the 5-Star Greenstar Design Rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa. This building has the latest innovative Web based, most vendor independent converged building and lighting controls solution available today globally, installed. The Building controls platforms in addition to their normal use are additionally and directly controlling, maintaining, managing and visualising 4,500 individual DALI light fixtures and 1,600 DALI multisensors.

The entire converged building and lighting controls solution was designed, delivered, commissioned and is being maintained by a leading local System Integrator.

The end customer Standard Bank had the choice of which local System Integrator to use, which web-based converged building and lighting controls platform to use, which DALI light fixtures as well as what sensors and input devices were installed.

Standard Bank therefore now have 100% access to all light fixture, sensors, switch data and commands, in real-time, for any future “Big Data” local or “Cloud based” analytics enabling them to provide real-time continuous optimisation of any space.

Ultimately, if this solution were installed in all Standard Banks facilities it would enable real-time business output per space to be measured against cost of providing a suitable environment.

An added benefit is that Standard Bank can also - either via its own FM team or the local System Integrator - implement any adds, moves and changes required in real-time.

Therefore, when it comes to achieving optimum results, knowing how to source the right products and making the right decision - based upon technology and open international standards choice, rather than brand - is key to finding lower-cost smart control solutions. Then, they truly become an asset, rather than an expense.

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